14 Reasons You Feel Like You Don’t Belong Anywhere

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Feeling like you don’t belong anywhere can be a distressing experience.

But, believe it or not, you’re not alone in feeling it.

Sometimes a person may just be going through some temporary hard times where they feel they can’t relate to anyone.

Other times it may be the result of something deeper that needs to be addressed with the help of a mental health professional.

If, right now, you feel like you don’t fit in with the people and places that surround you, there is likely a reason for it.

This article serves as a gateway to help you better understand why you, personally, don’t feel like you belong anywhere.

Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you with your lack of belonging. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.

14 Reasons Why You Feel Like You Don’t Belong

1. You’re neurodivergent.

Please don’t dismiss this just because you don’t have a diagnosis.

There are many people with undiagnosed neurodivergence out there who refuse to consider this as a possibility due to misguided beliefs about what neurodivergence looks like.

Autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and OCD are just some of the conditions that fall under the umbrella of neurodivergence.

What’s more, there is so much nuance to each individual’s experience and expression of neurodivergence. So just because you don’t think your experience fits because it doesn’t match what is typically considered as autistic or ADHD, you ought not to rule it out completely.

And to return to the subject of this article, many (if not most) neurodivergent people struggle with feeling different or “other than” simply because their brains work differently from neurotypical people.

They can struggle to understand the world they live in and the people they interact with and so feel like they don’t belong.

2. You have mental health concerns that need addressing.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that nearly 1 in 4 adults is living with a diagnosable mental illness.

There are certain mental illnesses that can contribute to feeling like you’re isolated or alone.

Social anxiety and depression are just two examples of conditions that can make a person feel misunderstood and as though they are standing completely alone in a world full of people.

3. You have Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria.

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is not an official medical diagnosis, but as a manifestation of emotional dysregulation, it is becoming more widely discussed in relation to ADHD and also with Autism.

That said, you do not have to be neurodivergent to experience RSD.

People with RSD experience intense feelings of pain and a sense of devastation when confronted with rejection, criticism, or teasing.

What’s important in relation to lacking a sense of belonging is that the rejection needn’t always be real—it only needs to be perceived.

Since neurodivergent people and those with some mental health conditions may view behaviors and situations differently from how others see them, they may feel rejected even when they are not being rejected.

RSD can make a person feel like there is nowhere for them to feel at home because they perceive rejection wherever they go.

4. You have experienced trauma.

Trauma can encompass many different experiences. If you have suffered a trauma, it may affect how you subsequently view the world and the people in it.

Trauma can leave you feeling alone and distant from society purely because most people cannot relate to the experiences you have had.

Some traumas can also make it difficult for you to form close connections with others due to trust issues or avoidant attachment styles.

Trauma can also cause or exacerbate mental health conditions, making you even more prone to feelings of being different or unwelcome.

5. You are an extreme introvert.

Introversion is not about being shy. It primarily involves the way a person handles social experiences.

Introverts aren’t asocial—some are very social—but they quickly feel mentally and emotionally drained by social interaction.

Some introverts feel unable to engage in anything remotely social because they cannot cope with it, mentally and emotionally.

This can make it hard for them to form healthy relationships and thus feel alienated from the rest of society.

Many neurodivergent people likely identify as highly introverted.

6. You’re highly intelligent.

Some people with very high IQs may struggle to feel a sense of belonging because their intelligence becomes a barrier to deeper connections.

It’s not a case of being arrogant and not wanting to associate with those with lower IQs—it’s that you might have a way of thinking that prevents a mutual understanding from forming.

You might enjoy discussions that many others either cannot follow or have no real interest or knowledge in.

7. You experienced childhood emotional neglect.

Note that neglect is not the same as abuse here.

Childhood emotional neglect can be characterized by behaviors that fail to recognize the child’s need for emotional support, reassurance, validation, and attention.

Parents can provide for all a child’s physical and material needs and can treat the child fairly and respectfully but still neglect to attend to that child’s emotional needs.

Some people simply lack the emotional intelligence to handle situations where their child might need to be listened to and comforted.

An adult who has experienced childhood emotional neglect may struggle to form or maintain relationships, be hypersensitive to rejection, and have trust issues, among other things.

This may cause them to feel lost and alone in the world.

8. Your worldview or personality is different than the norm.

A differing worldview or personality can feel isolating because you may not feel understood.

And if you don’t feel understood, you won’t feel like you belong.

It’s hard to figure out your place in the world when you are bombarded from all sides from social media, traditional media, your friends and family, or even coworkers who feel you should see the world the same way they do.

But you don’t. And that’s okay.

But it can make it harder to feel like you fit in with any of these people or the wider world.

9. You don’t know yourself well.

Perhaps it’s not that your personality is vastly different to other people, it’s that you don’t fully understand what your personality is or what you stand for.

And so, you don’t know where you might belong or how you might meaningfully contribute to the world.

This is especially common among younger people who haven’t yet figured out the type of person they wish to be or their core beliefs and values.

Of course, older adults may also realize how little they know themselves and feel isolated and lost because of it.

10. You may be living in an area that is a bad fit for you.

Some people just feel like they don’t belong in certain areas.

That could be for all sorts of reasons: racial or cultural differences, political views, urban versus rural preferences, and lifestyle preferences, among so many other things.

And if you haven’t experienced living in a place that better suits your preferences and needs, you might assume that there is nowhere on this planet where you’ll feel at home.

11. You’re experiencing the spotlight effect.

Do you believe that people are concerned with you, your appearance, and your actions a lot of the time?

Then you may be experiencing the spotlight effect.

If you worry about this sort of thing, you may try to behave how you think others want you to behave, you may conform to society’s expectations—in short, you may not live authentically.

You may see your flaws as large and varied, feel self-conscious, and feel constantly judged.

This can create emotional distance between you and others, leaving you feeling as if nobody really knows or accepts the real you.

People with low self-esteem and social anxiety are particularly prone to the spotlight effect.

12. You or the people around you are changing and growing.

Life happens. The years go by and people change, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

Friends and family members are not always a consistent presence in your life.

And as time passes and people change, they will eventually need to travel down their own roads.

They may go off to college, get married, or move off to a new location in search of their own peace of mind and happiness.

You may currently feel ungrounded because of all the change that occurs in you and others.

13. You or the people around you are stuck and stagnating.

The frustration of feeling stuck or stagnating can contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

That could be anything from a passionless relationship to a job that just doesn’t offer any degree of fulfillment.

Furthermore, if you are the kind of person who is interested in adventure or excitement, feeling bogged down or not stimulated is going to feel more isolating.

14. You may not be receptive enough to the opportunities around you.

Far too many people think that friends or lovers are going to come knock on their door.

This isn’t going to happen.

You must be willing to put yourself out there if you want to find a crowd that you can feel at home in.

And perhaps you have been overlooking opportunities that might be right in front of you.

Perhaps those people who are different from you are trying to welcome you as best as they can and you misinterpret their actions and keep them at arm’s length.

How To Cope With A Feeling Of Not Belonging

In many cases, therapy can provide some relief from the nagging sense that you don’t belong anywhere.

A therapist can help you do several things, including:

  • Understanding what the cause(s) are of your lack of belonging.
  • Working through any experiences that have contributed to your sense of alienation.
  • Finding acceptance about your social situation and the distress you feel about not fitting in.
  • Providing coping mechanisms that help you challenge your thinking regarding situations and/or lessen the emotional impact of those situations.

A therapist will be able to offer far more personalized advice than any internet article or book can provide.

BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.

While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address.

And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.

Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome behaviors they don’t really understand in the first place. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.

Online therapy is actually a good option for many people. It’s more convenient than in-person therapy and is more affordable in a lot of cases.

And you get access to the same level of qualified and experienced professional.

Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.

That being said, here are some broad pieces of advice that you may find useful:

  • Redefine friendship as a spectrum—you may have just one or two close friends while others are more surface-level. That’s very normal, so don’t assume that just because you’re not able to pour your heart out to someone that they aren’t your friend.
  • Meet people where they are—perhaps a diverse range of friendship groups where you only really do one thing with each of them is okay for you. Consider that you don’t need to feel like you belong to a group outright if you can be a part of it when it matters.
  • Try to understand yourself better—spend time figuring out your core values and beliefs to help you build your sense of identity. With this, you’ll have a better chance of finding people, places, and groups that provide a sense of belonging.
  • Learn how to express yourself better—being able to tell people who you are, what your needs are, and how you are feeling all help to build a connection that will be lacking if you hide away or wear a mask around others.
  • Be open to online connections—perhaps where you feel you belong won’t be a physical place but a digital space. There are thriving online communities for almost every hobby or interest, and you may find it easier to be yourself from behind a screen. Don’t dismiss the value of these digital connections.

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About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.